Spacecaking in Amsterdam

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Right before leaving

After hearing JC’s story about his trip to Taiwan that never happened in the 80’s, it’s unbelievable I’m the fruit of his loins. Since I know you’re asking “what happened with JC”, let’s just say he had a 7:45am flight and didn’t get back from drinking the previous night until 7:15am. He jammed his suitcase full of clothes, had my mom take him to the airport, and then couldn’t go on the flight because he didn’t have his Visa with him. I on the other hand was completely packed the night before and arrived a few hours before my flight.

20160201_032824My round trip air fare to fly from Philly to Amsterdam and then Vienna back to Philly was around $900 which I thought was reasonable. I had connecting flights in Toronto which if I could do again I would have chose direct and paid more. When I got to the airport I drank a few beers and awaited my ~9 hour journey (2 hour layover in Toronto). I chatted it up with some electrician from North Dakota and a soccer ref who does whatever league is right below the MLS. The flight to Amsterdam was relatively empty and I tried to watch We Are Your Friends and a movie with Jonah Hill and James Franco, both of which I stopped 25 minutes through. I left Philly at 5pm and arrived in Amsterdam around 10am the next day.

grandcentrallWhen I first arrived to Amsterdam I immediately made a mistake. My hotel was right by the Centraal Station which I did on purpose. However I must have been overwhelmed with excitement and decided to take a cab instead which cost 55 Euro instead of 5. Oops. When I get to my hotel they said I reserved a handicapped room which was news to me. It was a regular room except the shower was open with a seat. You’ll notice this from the picture and when I showered I would get water all over the room which I couldn’t figure out if it was appropriate. Europe.

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bikesWith no agenda whatsoever, I set out of my hotel and figured I would walk around for a while to get my bearings. My first impression was, “holy shit, there are a lot of bikes.” It was also incredibly windy. I hit the main stretch of roads which were filled with stores for shopping. As I wrote in this previous post, as I walked around I just looked different. Anyone from the area would immediately spot me as a tourist. I noticed the streets were filled with the aroma for weed and every other store was a head shop.

20160201_154530After a bit of discovery of the city I decided to look up in Trip Advisor what were the key places to visit. I ended up touring the Rjikmuseum at the end of the day in a beautiful area that houses Amsterdam’s museums. After that I was curious to experience the world renowned Red Light District. I will share that it is certainly a sight to see. European sex slaves stand in their bra and panties behind glass doors. They tap on the glass as you pass by hoping to take your 50 euro for 15 minutes, so I read. I was completely sober at the time and couldn’t bring myself to open my immune system to an STD so I did not partake the first night.

Line at the Anne Frank Museum

Line at the Anne Frank Museum

Waking up the next day I got breakfast at my hotel for $25 euro. I was feeling a little more settled than the first day where I could only describe myself as a puppy being on his own for the first time in a foreign land. My first destination was the Anne Frank museum which I figured I had to do. I waited in line for about 30 minutes and toured the house where Anne hid. I ended up buying the diary afterwards and am reading it now and find it to be more boring than exciting. After that I headed to the Van Gogh Museum and did the Heineken Experience. I finished the touristy attractions and decided to let loose a bit in Amsterdam.

20160202_210910I went to a local store and bought 2 spacecakes that were titled Amnesia and some type of Kush. I ate one and didn’t feel anything happening so I ate a second. I wandered around a little bit and then had to take a shit so I went back to my hotel room. I dropped a deuce and started reading up on what Spacecakes actually were. The description of the effects had me a bit concerned because it said they last for 5 hours and stay with you for 12. Also they don’t kick in for an hour or two which had me nervous for what to expect. This video details the feeling.

Pictures are not permitted in the Red Light Disctrict

Pictures are not permitted in the Red Light Disctrict

I should note that I thoroughly enjoyed the nighttime run through Voldepark. I didn’t see a lot of runners in Amsterdam and didn’t expect the physical activity that we have in the States. Much to my surprise there were countless “fit” groups in the park. Once I got done the run I decided to set out in the city a final time. Once again I flirted with the idea of banging a whore and didn’t do it. I had 8 more days in Europe and the feeling of wondering what I could catch from a hooker who has banged hundreds of other guys was not worth the 28 seconds of pleasure.

Library at Rjiksmuseum

Library at Rjiksmuseum

I didn’t touch on the coffee shops in Amsterdam which are located all over and frequently crowded. Being by myself I wasn’t going to enter a coffee shop with dozens of people, sit down at a table, and smoke a j to myself. Being foreign was hard enough and being high and foreign I didn’t see as enjoyable. Perhaps this is short sighted but I would have felt much more comfortable if I was there with a friend who would make the scene easier to take. Being alone was my biggest issue with traveling to a European city because 1) I didn’t feel like I fit in 2) Sitting at a bar drinking by yourself wasn’t exactly what I considered fun. This city would have been 10x better with company.

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Mr Bean’s Car

I retreated to my hotel room to realize that the maid had somehow took my tooth brush and contact case. I swear there is no other explanation. This was a bigger problem than initially appeared because I had an early flight the next day and no place to buy these essentials. I ended up filling a drinking glass with contact solution which I would do throughout the entire trip. Europe!

Initial European Impressions

Subsequent posts will have a trip report but I wanted to give an overall feel for European culture being an American.

ein-bier-bitte-e1350137643361Being completely alone in a foreign city is a bit intimidating. I’ve only traveled to Europe once previously and I was mainly guided. This time I was by myself to explore cities. Not speaking any foreign language made every interaction challenging. You’ll hear often that “don’t worry, everyone speaks English.” This I found to be largely true in consumer oriented (hotels, restaurants, museums) interactions. However, waltzing into a bar and sitting down ordering, “ein Bier”, wasn’t very comforting. Making efforts to speak and order in German actually made it worse because they would follow up with some more German which I obviously wouldn’t understand. Lesson learned.

6ceeb02638dbb2cda27cd2c670574c23cfd568f0.jpg-590x1000I met a German who was in his early 20’s and we talked and he liked all of the exact same TV shows. Fargo, Breaking Bad, and House of Cards to name a few. It was cool to see that media was universal. He also liked professional basketball and said his “dream” was to go see a game live. I was like, “that’s pretty easy to make happen” but shows it’s a different world out there. Once again though he spoke good English and was one of the few people who I could have a detailed conversation with.

Medienboard Berlinale-EmpfangI also felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb being an American. Walking the streets everyone spoke whatever language of the country and dressed, acted, and looked different from me. I mean this as European’s physically look different. They seem more sophisticated and I get the feeling that they look at Americans with their noses in the air. This carries no weight for the people that I met as I was treated with the utmost respect from all. I also think this comes with the fact that I have no idea what they are talking about so it feels foreign and unsettling which is why I probably have this opinion.

SiemensHighSpeedI’ll close this entry with the ease of getting around as I was lost precisely 0 times during the entire trip. The train systems were without fail and there were 0 hang ups at the hotels. I walked entire cities and did every tourist attraction I could squeeze into a short time there. Aside from a migrant situation that I’ll describe in further detail in future posts, I never felt unease. Those are some general thoughts about the trip.

Guess Who’s Back

map-of-EuropeI arrived back from Europe at around 7pm. I have a thousand thoughts running through my head and I have much material jotted down to expand. Unfortunately, today is not the day to do so. I’m whipped from traveling on a plane for 10 hours and happy to be home. I promise I’ll get around to a multi-entry trip about all I’ve been through over the last 9 days. Stay tuned.

What I’ve Learned From Chess

slide-3I’m currently sitting at a 1229 ranking which is my highest of all time. I
recently beat an opponent that was 1400, my highest win to date. A
grandmaster plays at 2000+ to give you an idea of how much more room there
is for improvement. Basically anyone under 1,000 is a noob. 1,100 means your
grasping some basic concepts. 1,200 shows your delving deeper into openings
and positioning. Over the years I’ve gotten in and out of chess. Basically
when I get to a point where I hit a wall, I give up.

I’ve played 3,792 games and my record is 1,863-1,835. You’ll always stay
close to even because as you get better you get matched up with better
players. I’ve learned some valuable lessons from chess.

Fucking+Chess.+Don+t+do+it_8566a8_3835257*       Unlike poker, there is no luck aspect to chess. When you lose, it’s
because you were outsmarted. In poker when you lose it’s easy to blame being
unlucky and continue. In chess there is no one else to blame but yourself
and this can take a toll on you and your confidence to continue playing.
*       It’s a game that requires experimentation. The game only has a
finite number of openings and the best players know how the games play out.
Being different is the only way to compete effectively because good players
have done certain scenarios so many times that they aren’t going to make
mistakes. However, usually experimenting leads to losing which gets
frustrating.
*       It is a game which doesn’t get old easily. There are always better
players and new ways to play.

I’ve moved some of my free time from Photoshop and German to chess which I
enjoy more because it’s fun compared to feeling like work. Next stop is to
get to 1,300.

My Music Taste

musiccomplementWhen I posted the song 7 Years by Lukas Graham it had 395k views. In about 5 weeks, it now has 4.1 million views. This is hardly patting myself on the back but I know a good song when I hear it. I also listen to the most up to date music which means that I get first crack at identifying songs. The best sources for new music is every Friday to search the new releases on the Spotify section and I particularly like alternativeaddiction and the unofficalalt18countdownplaylists for what Sirius AltNation is playing. I’m out of the pop game so don’t look to me on that. Without further ado, here are some songs.

St Lucia – Help Me Run Away

Only 16k views and released on Jan 21st. I’m picking this as early as possible. The hook is catchy which unfortunately will be the song’s downfall. I’m a big fan of the lyrics though. At around 1:10 you hear the word “America” followed by the lyric, “pulled me out of the shadows” which happens to be my favorite part of the song. St Lucia is a one man band by Jean-Philip Grobler who was born in South Africa. There are other St Lucia songs on Spotify that have upwards of a million views but you may have heard Dancing on Glass which is being played by AltNation.

Panic at the Disco – Impossible Year

Their new album Death of a Bachelor was released a few weeks ago and they had been releasing singles weeks prior so there were only a few songs I hadn’t heard off it and Impossible Year was one. Brandon Urie really nailed it on this song. I love the lyrics and the pace of the song. It’s not going to be one that you’re rocking out on at a party but it’s a fun song to relate to if you are looking to be mopey. Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time and LA Devotee are other tracks to listen to off the album.


 

Nobody Wins by Brian Fallon

Brian Fallon went solo from the Gaslight Anthem and came out Nobody Wins. It doesn’t have the same rock feel of Gaslight music but it’s a story type feel of reminiscing about the old days. This song will not make it to radio because it lacks the punch of mainstream feel but I like the song.

Hozier – Someone New

I hear the collective groan. How can someone who is claiming to be up to date on music come out with a song that has been played nonstop for the past 6 months? I would only like to point out that the lyrics are a masterpiece. The song being titled Someone New I interpret as the artist jumping from girl to girl. The line “I fall in love just a little or a little bit everyday with someone new” is saying how there are unique qualities to every person to like. My favorite line of the song, “love with every stranger, the stranger the better.” He’s looking for the most individual, weird character traits and that’s what gets him off. I’ve heard the song hundreds of times and it doesn’t get old for me because I keep thinking about its lyrics and that is what makes Hozier great. I was skeptical at first but really came on board the more I listened.

A Non-Universal View

Laura and I had dinner the other night and discussed our 1 word answer game which I mocked previously. She came up with “new” and I came up with “live”. These were better answers in my opinion.

This will be the 2nd time I’m traveling to Europe in exactly 2 years. There is a roofing show held in Germany bi-annually which is my excuse for going. I was much more nervous last time then I am this time for multiple reasons.

  • Let's see if I can get lucky and get a picture like this again.

    Let’s see if I can get lucky and get a picture like this again.

    Last time I was to go skiing in the Alps. Being a person who sucks at skiing, I was dreading falling off the “glacier”.

  • I fully expected to not be able to communicate when I was there which was pretty true but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I had no trouble checking into hotels or ordering food even though pointing is not ideal. I also felt this minimized the experience but there isn’t much you can do about it. I’ll still feel awkward going into a German bar and doing just about anything. Like sitting at a bar and ordering a beer is a trial. Ein Bier, bitte.
  • The Mercedes Benz factory is in Stuttgart which I'll be touring.

    The Mercedes Benz factory is in Stuttgart which I’ll be touring.

    I’ve matured a bit and have a better understanding of my place in the business world and how I may fit in whereas before I was searching every which way. An example was the person who was showing me around introduced me to the President of a 20 million Euro a year company and I blanked when I was talking to him because I had no idea what to ask him about. I remember saying, “what is the hardest part about business” or something stupid. I would handle it better this time,

  • I have no expectations other than to experience a few European cities. If you look at it like this, there is absolutely nothing to be nervous about.

globalperspectiveWhen I was 22, I don’t think I ever thought of traveling to Europe to achieve business. It didn’t register on my radar. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a more global view which doesn’t happen without wanting to develop it. I’ve started to gain a deeper understanding of America and want to learn how the rest of the world perceives us. For this particular industry, it’s not like there are hundreds of Americans who are traveling and making an impression on roofing. I’m one of the few.

hugoI find European culture to be cooler than America which never really dawned on me when I was younger. I spent $175 on Hugo Boss shoes to try something new. I wear Boss clothes as well because I like the fit and style. I’ll probably by a few more articles of clothing and gadgets for keepsakes from the trip.

When I was over there 2 years ago I noticed there weren’t many over weight people. After that trip 2 years ago I flew straight to Vegas and was encountered by ridiculous American slobs and was shaking my head about American culture.  I think about some states like Arkansas and Alabama and how I’ve never been there and wonder if “southern folk” exist in Europe. When you start thinking like this you start wanting to see what it’s like in Nigeria, Russia, South Korea, and Colombia.

universe-resized-600What’s even stranger as I’ve gotten older is that I’ve not only opened up my global perspective, but also a universal perspective. When you see pictures of the universe and you see how much of a spec our planet is in the grand scheme of things, you feel really little. It shows how insignificant whatever it is you are doing is. I like to think of Earth and the human species as a petri dish that has evolved into us. With the way time is, we are in such a small window that our 80 years on Earth is a flash. I’m sure there is other shit in the universe but the chance of us seeing it in our lifetime is minuscule. This train of thought could be depressing but you make the best of what you have and that’s living life to be happy and a continuous betterment.

With that I wish my readers adieu and I should get some seriously awesome posts after my trip. I’ll take plenty of pictures and try to get myself into experiences I usually wouldn’t. Sam – I’m single spacing now.

 

 

Lately I’ve been looking at the universe and my role in it.

When I look at someone I’ve never met before and will never meet again, I look at that person as a spec instead of a person.

Single spacing.

Bettering yourself.

Voting For Donald Trump

megyn_kelly_variety-cover-story-1Donald Trump has decided not to partake in tonight’s debate because of a spat with Megyn Kelly. Do you really think that Donald Trump is doing this over a feud with a reporter who questioned his attitude towards women last time? It’s quite possible but I doubt the Donald backs down from many fights. My take is that Donald is using this more for future ammo.

The Republican debate in August got 24 million viewers. The one in November got 13.5. If Donald Trump isn’t a part of the debate, what do you think that number would go to? 10 million? 5 million? 2 million? He’s basically saying that he’s the main draw and people are only interested in this Presidential election because of him and he’s going to prove it by not attending.

giphyDonald’s antics (see you later Muslims and immigrants) and his in your face behavior is unprecedented and the populous is eating it up. The people have had enough of the Clinton’s, Bush’s, and other officers who have been running our country for decades. Donald is the unknown and people are tired of the known. It doesn’t matter that Donald doesn’t know the difference between Hezbollah and Isis. People love the mystery he provides.

I also think people like that although Donald is running as a Republican, his actual stances are flexible. There so flexible because he makes decisions on the spot instead of doing what the party “is supposed to do.” This annoys the politicians because it’s not the way it’s supposed to be done. They want to know what is going to happen before it does so they can prepare and Donald does not allow that because he’s a complete loose cannon. Of course he is going to make everyone uncomfortable because he operates on the edge of his seat.

Have you ever seen this man? It's Ted Cruz.

Have you ever seen this man? It’s Ted Cruz.

I look at the other candidates and even though I hardly think Donald is perfect for the position, I don’t see anyone else winning. Ted Cruz, who? Marco Rubio seems to know what he’s talking about but he never makes the news so how can the public ever vote for him. Bernie Sanders is a socialist who will be dead by the time his time is up. Hilary will get female votes but I don’t think American men are ready for a woman president.

Which leads to Donald Trump. I could easily see him telling North Korea that we’re going to drop a nuclear bomb on their nuclear bomb for a double dose of nuclear. In the grand scheme of the universe, this is a tiny 4 year window. What’s the worse that can happen? Now of course this answer is where people would say, “are you an idiot.” Yes. Yes I am.

Happy Birthday, Bud

I pointed about a million readers to the fact that it’s Bud’s birthday today. I probably only know about a dozen birthday’s by heart and his is one.

I haven’t had time to blog recently and this isn’t going to change moving forward. I’m heading out to Europe on Jan 31st and all blog transmissions will stop until February 10th. Obviously I’ll try to take plenty of pictures and have good stories for upcoming posts.

This post is just letting know what is ongoing so you aren’t wondering why I’m not posting.

Being the Captain

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We have a bowling league that started up on Monday that is more official than the Manayunk league at Hi-Spots. You have to pay $10 to become a USBC member for the half year to allow you to play for the money involved. It’s sanctioned which allows the prize pool to take place. Last night was the 2nd week and I have already had a situation come up where the captain has to make a decision.

In Week 1, our entire team came into the league with 120 averages which is normal considering we have yet to bowl in the league. As such, we were all far better than 120 bowlers. This was the week 1 scoreboard.

 

southbowlscores

 

When the standings came out, it says we were 3-1. In bowling leagues, you roll 3 games and the 4th game is total pins. All games are handicapped. Now considering we all entered with 120 averages, you can see by the picture that the other team was giving us 67 pins. There is about a 0% chance that we lost a game under these circumstances.

1-bowlingHere is where my moral issue comes in and I’m asking my blog audience what they would do. I can ask the league coordinator to see the scores of the games to see how we lost a game. It is possible that there is a justifiable reason we lost. This could be that they took our averages after we rolled and handicapped the game from there. It’s also possible that the game was so lopsided (which was no fault of our own but completely unfair coming in with a 120 average) that they gave a game to the opposing team because one of their members is the President of the league out of pity. Or I could say I don’t give a shit, it’s one game over the course of the season and it won’t matter in the long run. Plus if the game was handicapped accurately, it would have played out completely different because we would have been giving pins to start. I tend to not think it will make a difference but want to do right by the team. What should I do?

Would you fight for the win?

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Pictures From North Korea

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“To be fair, when I went I saw nearly everything presented in these pictures. You mainly see this stuff when you are travelling between cities. You pass through many villages that look totally third world and see lots of soldiers hitch hiking and stuff, kids playing in the road, etc. And with the bathroom as a cistern thing, a couple of the hotel rooms I stayed in came with bathtubs full of water that I wasn’t allowed to use as actual bathtubs because they needed the water in them. I also think they’ve started loosening up on the picture taking rules. As I understand it, a few years ago they were a lot more strict about it. My guide didn’t even forbid pictures taken from inside the car, I was told really the only rule regarding photography was that I couldn’t take pictures of soldiers (which still happened anyways since they’re everywhere).”

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